The Story of China


  • The Mandate of Heaven | The Story of China

    Learn about King Di Xin, the final king of the Shang Dynasty and his a repressive regime in this clip from The Story of China. The King squandered his resources and punished those who spoke against his rule. In 1046 BCE, King Wen and his allies claimed that King Di had lost the "Mandate of Heaven." This mandate established the idea that a ruler must be just to keep the approval of the gods. King Wen defeated the Shang Dynasty and established the Zhou Dynasty.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Confucius, Confucianism, and the Analects | The Story of China

    Discover the role that Confucius played in Chinese history with this clip from The Story of China. Confucius lived during a chaotic time in China's history and he helped to create peace. His goal became to restore order and civilization by teaching rulers how to be more virtuous.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Silk Roads and Trade | The Story of China

    Learn about the Silk Roads that began the global network that opened up trade between China, Persia, India, and the Roman Empire in this clip from The Story of China.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Influence of Buddhism (Cultural Diffusion) | The Story of China

    Learn about Buddhism and its initial influence on Chinese culture towards the end of the Han Dynasty around the year 200 CE with this clip from The Story of China. Traders travelling from India to China along the Silk Road brought Buddhism with them. By the mid 500s, Buddhism had become very popular and the Chinese landscape was transformed by the building of Buddhist temples and monasteries.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Trade in the Tang Dynasty | The Story of China

    Learn about China's great practical achievement, the Grand Canal in this clip from The Story of China. Started during the Sui Dynasty and expanded by successive dynasties, the Grand Canal connected the northern and southern regions. It allowed inland navigation and an elaborate internal exchange of goods. The construction of the waterway came at a high human cost and hastened the fall of the short-lived Sui.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Inventions and Science: Movable Type | The Story of China

    Learn about the early practices of printing in China during the Tang and Song dynasties with this clip from The Story of China. Books were primarily published with woodblocks, with entire pages carved into separate pieces of wood. The Chinese first invented movable type during the Song Dynasty, but the complexity of the Chinese language made it cumbersome and not cost efficient. However, publishers continued to use woodblocks.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Inventions and Science: Astronomical Clock and Other Advancements | The Story of China

    Explore the work and legacy of Su Song in this clip from The Story of China. Song was a scholar, civil servant and expert on a wide range of technical subjects including pharmaceutical botany, zoology and minerals, as well as calendar science and astronomy. He invented an astronomical clock for the emperor of China featuring a design involving a chain-drive mechanism added to a water-powered clock. It told the time of day, as well as the day of the month, and the phases of the moon.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Social Mobility, Education, Examination System | The Story of China

    Discover how the Song Dynasty in China was dominated by Confucianism with this clip from The Story of China. Confucianism formed the basis of education, public life and private family rituals in China. With the establishment of a national education system, the emperor encouraged students of all social classes to take part, for the "morality of the culture." Through this system the Confucian teachings were allowed to spread and permeate throughout society.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Women in the Song | The Story of China

    Learn about poet Li Qingzhao and the life of women during the Song Dynasty with this clip from The Story of China. Neo-Confucian values reinforced the idea that a woman's role is subservient to the male's in the family and society. Despite this, women played an instrumental role in Chinese society. Many learned to read and write. Texts were written specifically for women with some women publishing their own books.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Zheng He | The Story of China

    Learn about Zheng He, the admiral of seven voyages from China to the Indian Ocean and a symbol of Ming Dynasty Chinese expansionism in this clip from The Story of China. The aim of the voyages was to display China's power and wealth, to extend the tributary system, and satisfy Emperor Yongle's desire for glory. The expeditions sailed as far as East Africa and brought back many gifts from other kingdoms, including exotic plants, spices and animals. The voyages were cancelled and the fleet sunk after the voyages and Zheng He fell out of political favor in the capital.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Matteo Ricci: Christianity and Western Ideas Introduced | The Story of China

    Learn about Matteo Ricci, the Italian Jesuit missionary, who was instrumental in introducing Christianity and western scientific ideas to Ming Dynasty China in this clip from The Story of China. Ricci arrived in 1582, in Macao, which was the only place in China that foreigners could freely settle. Ricci learned Chinese and studied Chinese culture. He eventually got permission to enter China and to travel to Beijing. Ricci lived in Beijing from 1601 for the rest of his life, teaching western scientific knowledge and preaching Christianity.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Islam in China in Qing | The Story of China

    In this clip from The Story of China, discover how Islam came to China through trade, just as Buddhism and Christianity had. The Mongol rule of China encouraged Muslim immigration. By the time of the Qing Dynasty, Muslim communities and mosques could be found in most Chinese cities. Muslim scholars and soldiers held positions in the Chinese government and army.

    Grades: 4-12
  • British and Opium | The Story of China

    Learn about the development of trade between Britain and China with this clip from The Story of China. In the 1800s, the British faced a massive trade deficit with China. The huge western demand for Chinese products had not been matched by Chinese demand for British products such as wool and cotton. To counter this deficit, the British traders turned to opium. They scaled up opium production in India and sold the addictive drug to the Chinese.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Opium Wars | The Story of China

    Learn about the events leading to conflict between Britain and China with this clip from The Story of China. Imports into China rose from 200 chests in 1729 to 40,000 chests in 1838. China was aware, not only of the damaging effects on its people, but also of the drain on its silver reserves, and tried to ban opium. But the highly profitable trade continued. In 1839, Chinese official Commissioner Lin Zexu demanded the foreigners hand over their opium stocks, and destroyed them. British commercial interests pushed for war with China, and the British sent in gunboats. In what became known as the First Opium War, the British easily defeated the Chinese, who were forced to sign the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Taiping Rebellion | The Story of China

    Learn about the Taiping Rebellion with this clip from The Story of China. The Taiping Rebellion affected a large area of China between 1850 and 1864, cost millions of lives, and had the potential to overthrow the Qing dynasty. In 1851, Hong Xiuquan's Taiping army swept across China towards Nanjing, which fell in 1853 and became the Taiping capital. The Taipings called for a new type of society, with common property and equal status for men and women, and banned footbinding, prostitution and gambling, as well as opium, tobacco and alcohol.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Boxer Rebellion | The Story of China

    Learn about The Boxer Rebellion, with this clip from The Story of China. The Boxer Rebellion was an anti-foreign peasant movement that began 1898 in north China. The Boxers were members of a secret martial arts society called the 'Harmonious Fists'. They blamed China's problems on foreigners, especially Christian missionaries. The Boxer movement attracted people struggling to survive on the edge of society. The movement expanded rapidly, seizing foreign properties, ripping up railroad tracks, and attacking and sometimes killing foreigners as well as Chinese Christian converts. In June 1900, the Boxers besieged the foreign legation area in Beijing. Several foreign armies banded together and defeated the Boxers.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Rise of Communism | The Story of China

    Explore how the Chinese Communist Party was founded with this clip from The Story of China. The party began in Shanghai in 1921, by political activists involved in the May Fourth Movement. After Chiang Kai-shek's brutal purge of the communists in 1927, Mao led several thousand followers into the mountains at the Hunan-Jiangxi border, where they set up the Jiangxi Soviet, promoting land reform. Forced to flee Jiangxi, Mao and other communist leaders in 1934 set out on the Long March, eventually reaching Yan'an, in north China, where they established a new base. In Yan'an, Mao developed his vision of Marxist revolution led by China's peasants, and he eliminated rivals for power.

    Grades: 4-12
  • Communists Take Control | The Story of China

    Discover how the People's Republic of China was established in 1949, after the Chinese Communist Party defeated China's Nationalists in this clip from The Story of China. After the withdrawal of Japanese troops in 1945, The USA tried to persuade China's Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek to work together with the communists to establish a government for China, but the attempts failed, and full-scale civil war broke out between the Nationalists and the Communists. Later in 1949, The communist Red Army marched triumphantly into Beijing, where in 1949 Mao Zedong proclaimed the formation of the People's Republic of China.

    Grades: 6-12
  • How Do We Know about the Shang? | The Story of China

    Discover one of the ways Shang kings communicated with their ancestors was by writing questions on shells and bones with this clip from The Story of China. A diviner would apply a heated rod to the backs of the bones. The cracks that formed were interpreted as the ancestors’ answers to the written questions. The shells and bones are known as 'oracle bones'. The oracle bones provide a great deal of information about Shang life

    Grades: 4-12
  • Di Xin | The Story of China

    Learn about the last king of the Shang, supposed to have given himself over to wine, women and wild, cruel behavior in this clip from The Story of China. Eventually an omen appeared in the sky, five planets clustered together, signaling the gods turned against the Shang.

    Grades: 4-12